Friday, May 25, 2018

LOL Nothing Matters

There are moments when I get sickened by the Bohemian Rhapsody ethos of the political press ("nothing really matters, anyone can see..."). I get the objective pose in journalism, and it makes sense in a lot of contexts, but in political coverage it is inconsistently applied and, for normal people, completely inverted. It's okay to express outrage that someone said something mean about John McCain. It's "political" and "taking sides" to give a shit about brown kids being kidnapped from their parents. It would not be "taking sides" to give a shit if white kids were being kidnapped from their DC private schools. In other parts of journalism, the question of what to emphasize can be divorced from ideological leanings, but in political coverage it just can't be. It is everything.

And built into most of the reporting are certain assumptions that at best make no sense and at worst are, themselves, highly ideological. Bipartisanship is good, even though usually the worst things in DC happen under the cover of bipartisanship. Deficits are bad, unless caused by tax cuts. Poor people get "welfare" and rich people get "incentives." There is no racism, there are just things that are "racially charged." The only poor people in America are white people in coal country. Black people don't exist in the South or, really, anywhere. Cops are good. The military is unquestionably good. Republican style patriotism is good. America does not torture. All of these things infuse political coverage.

It wasn't his best book, but I quite liked Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, due to its basic setup. A mentally ill car dealer (Dwayne Hoover) reads a science fiction short story, written as a letter from the Creator to its reader, informing him that he is the only being on the planet with free will, and that everyone else is basically a robot there to test him.

I sometimes rank people on my own internal Hoover scale, by how much they seem to actually believe this, that they are the only free willed beings on the planet. Political reporters, who I obviously only know from their "work," often do not do well.